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For a series of films that many thought finished after George Lucas finished his story with “Revenge of the Sith”, we are on the verge of the release of “Solo: A Star Wars Story”, which will be the fourth film in the series since “The Force Awakens” in 2015. In between, we had “Rogue One” but that wasn’t counted as an official Star Wars “episode”. That honour was reserved for this film, and like “Rogue One”, which tied right in with the events of “A New Hope”, “The Last Jedi” picks up almost immediately where “The Force Awakens” left off. Following the destruction of the Starkiller Base, the Resistance are on the run from the First Order, and Rey is still holding out Luke’s lightsabre to him, eagerly awaiting a response.
Rian Johnson, who previously impressed in the sci-fi thriller “Looper” has been given the unenviable task of following up on JJ Abrams ridiculously successful “The Force Awakens”. And while that film received some criticism for being something of a rehash of “A New Hope”, the temptation was surely there to attempt to recreate “The Empire Strikes Back” for this generation. While there are echoes of that film found here, Johnson cleverly subverts expectations and answers some of the questions raised in the previous film, but not in the way you would think. Snoke’s background, Rey’s parentage, and what effect would his self imposed exile have on Luke, not to mention how he came to find himself hidden away from the rest of the galaxy are all addressed. However, in answering these questions, Johnson has raised the ire of some Star Wars fanboys who have slated the film even though, given a bit of time, they’ll probably realise that this is an excellent entry to the series.
As I stated above, the film takes place mere moments after the ending of “The Force Awakens” with the Resistance forces attempting to flee from a First Order who have just witnessed the destruction of the weapon that would hand them the keys to control of the galaxy. What follows is an intriguing game of cat and mouse between the two sides, but both teams are rife with internal struggle. General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) are still somewhat at odds as Ren begins to doubt his own abilities following his perceived defeat to Rey (Daisy Ridley) at the conclusion of “The Force Awakens”. All is not well on the Resistance side of things either, as General Leia (Carrie Fisher) admonishes and demoted Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) because of his cavalier attitude which results in heavy losses for the rebel side. Rey is also attempting to resolve her own internal conflicts as well as trying to coax Luke (Mark Hamill) out of retirement to not only train her, but also rejoin the Resistance to rally their cause. We also get a returning Finn (John Boyega), as well as some new notable characters I the form of Rose (Kellie Marie Tran) and rebel Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern).
While there are some small issues with the film (a side quest to a casino planet really drags the run time and some of the humour seems like it was left over from “Guardians of the Galaxy”) it’s otherwise a fine film and features some of the most memorable scenes in all of the Star Wars films to date, as well as some of the best acting. Ridley, Boyega, and Driver slot right back in where they left off and while Ridley and Driver have interesting arcs and scenes together, Boyega is relegated to somewhat of a comic relief role, but this suits him down to the ground. Mark Hamill is absolutely outstanding here. While most (including me) expected a wisened, Obi-Wan style older Jedi, Luke is a broken man as we find him and this is explained really well in flashback which explains why Kylo Ren turned on him and as a result why Luke turned his back on everyone. The film also sees a couple of surprise returns which really bridge the gap between the original trilogy and this one. Star Wars wouldn’t be Star Wars without some memorable action though, and we get some excellent stuff here including a brilliantly shot and choreographed lightsabre battle, and a final battle that pays homage to the Battle of Hoth from “The Empire Strikes Back”
Thankfully, Johnson didn’t decide to end the film on a cliffhanger as I thought he would (and he could very easily have done) so we get a film that has something of a definitive ending, although there are some questions still lingering in the either, but not in the frustrating way that Abrams left us in “The Force Awakens”. As cheesy as it is to end this with a Star Wars quote, this film deserves it; the Force is strong with this one.
The words of Kevin Dillon
STAR WARS - RETURN OF THE JEDI is now available to order at goldendiscs.ie
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